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Charting a path to CONCACAF Champions League: What it could take for RSL to make it in

Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

Last night, Seattle Sounders won the US Open Cup, defeating Philadelphia Union 2-1 in extra time. As we've discussed earlier in the week, this is the result that gives us the greatest opportunity to qualify for the CONCACAF Champions League.

But even with this result, the road to the Champions League isn't going to be easy. We still control our own destiny in some regard — but the only way we guarantee we get in is by winning the whole thing.

The 'simple' path: Win MLS Cup

I say "simple path" with a bit of sarcasm here. There's nothing easy about making it through the playoffs and winning the pinnacle of American soccer (although you might argue for the Supporters Shield, and I think there would be a good, spirited discussion about that topic) is not something you just get to, well, do. But should we do it, we'll win a Champions League spot. This is the best way to do it, but it's not the only way to do it.

The hardest path: Win the Supporters Shield

If by some miracle we manage to make up the eight point deficit we currently have on Seattle Sounders, we'd end up with a spot in CONCACAF Champions League. But for that to happen, league-leading Seattle Sounders has to take a nose-dive, and LA Galaxy, too, has to take a pretty big dip. So it's possible, but don't count on it.

The 'just good enough' path: Take second place in MLS

We'd have to sprint beyond LA Galaxy — that won't necessarily be easy, as they're five points ahead right now — and rely on DC United dropping at least two points. But it's still considerably closer than it was before last night. This also relies on Seattle Sounders finishing at the top, which, hey, that's probably the most likely occurrence, given they're three points ahead of LA Galaxy with a game in hand.

The silver lining path: Somebody else wins the Cup

If DC United finishes top in the Eastern Conference, they'll win a Champions League spot, whether they're top overall or not. If Seattle finishes at the top, they'll defer a Champions League spot. That's two spots sorted and one deferred — the 'second place' relies on this mechanism. But if, in this circumstance, DC United or Seattle Sounders win MLS Cup (DC United winning it would have a certain irony after last year, so it's not all bad), another spot would be deferred; so finishing third in MLS could be good enough. Similarly, if LA Galaxy win the Cup and end in second place, that second-place spot could be deferred to third place.

At any rate, it's all confusing and weird, but RSL has plenty of chances to make it back into CONCACAF Champions League.